The shuffle alternative: Creative's Zen Stone Plus not only offers better sound quality than the iPod shuffle, but it also has a cute little screen and has twice the storage capacity. True, it's not as elegant to look at, but as a functional device the Creative flattens the clip-sporting shuffle.
The nano alternative: Cowon's iAudio 7 earns its place in our list of 'better than iPod' models, simply because of its stunning battery life of 60 hours. Although Apple's iPod nano will chug along constantly for about a full day, the iAudio 7 will pump for an entire weekend. It also offers nano-beating sound quality and supports a vast array of codecs, including FLAC. Capacities go up to 16GB, making it as capacious as the iPod touch and Creative's Zen.
The touch alternative: The only player capable of beating the iPod touch at the moment is the Archos 605 WiFi. With capacities up to 160GB, a massive touch-sensitive screen, full Web browsing via Wi-Fi, excellent sound quality and support for DVD-quality video, the 605 is an absolute killer gadget. The touch may score top marks for elegance, but with 10-times the capacity and a larger screen, Archos owns the only potential 'touch killer'.
The classic alternative: Cowon's iAudio D2 DMB (DAB) not only boasts better overall sound quality than the iPod classic, but it also supports a whole heap of extra audio formats. FLAC and OGG -- two superb open-source codecs -- are supported by default. As you might have guessed from the name, the D2 also plays digital radio. Memory can be expanded via SD, theoretically up to 32GB per card! Although it's not for technophobes, this sophisticated and customisable player offers great features the iPod doesn't.